Today’s Lessons

July 18th, 2011

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

Beginning

January 3rd, 2011

This is the moment of embarking.
All auspicious signs are in place.

In the beginning, all things are hopeful. We prepare ourselves to start anew. Though we may be intent on the magnificent journey ahead, all things are contained in this first moment of our optimism, our faith, our resolution, our innocence.

In order to start, we must make a decision. This decision is a commitment to daily self-cultivation. We must make a strong connection to our inner selves. Outside matters are superfluous. Alone, and naked, we negotiate all of our live’s travails. Therefore, we alone must make something of ourselves, transforming ourselves into the instruments for experiencing the deepest spiritual essence of life.

Once we make our decision, all things will come to us. Auspicious signs are not a superstition, but a confirmation. They are a response. It is said that if one chooses to pray to a rock with enough devotion, even that rock will come alive. In the same way, once we choose to commit ourselves to spiritual practice, even the mountains and valleys will reverberate to the sound of our purpose.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I’ve never found much that is spiritual in being preached at. Talked with, discussion, question asking, yes, but not when someone is preaching at you. Especially if they want you to accept some literal meaning of whatever they are preaching, instead of taking from it your own spiritual lessons. Religion is meaningless without personal interpretation and relevance to your own life. There are beautiful, wonderful, spiritual concepts in all religions, and then they are twisted up into this package that one must accept in whole instead of taking from it the parts that matter to you.

I guess that’s why I like the idea of Taoism. Here is a thought, an idea, a focus for meditation. Take it and see what it means to you. See how it applies to your life, to the world around you. Observe. And then, when you integrate that idea into your life, here’s another. And you can always cycle back to the previous ideas and refocus again. See the spiritual in everything, in the ordinary, even in a rock. And then the world does reverberate for you. One of the definitions of reverberate is “to have a long or continuing effect”. I think that is what most of us actually long for that is lacking in our lives. We don’t always feel that we can have a long or continuing effect. But Tao teaches that everything in life has an effect. The goal is to focus it so that you achieve the results you want. But if you are in Tao, then the only results that can matter are the ones inside yourself, since the inside reflects the outside and vice versa. So how you interpret what happens is as important as what happens, and that is what can make the difference in your life. There are lessons to be learned in all that happens. How we respond makes the difference.

I hope to respond with optimism, and faith, and resolution, and innocence. All moments are new beginnings.

(revised from the original post Jan 1 2005)

Solstice

December 20th, 2010


Winter Solstice, Brigitte Lopez

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer” — Albert Camus

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the
landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.
- Andrew Wyeth

Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.
– Charles G. Stater

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”
– Japanese Proverb

“In the summer I have this friend who I am closest to, and sometimes, in the winter, I long to call her up and say, come here and live with me, in this cold place. But we are summer friends. There is a rule it seems, that summer friends don’t get together in the wintertime. Now, sitting here, waiting for her, I realize that I have never seen her in a winter coat, and for some reason that makes me sadder than anything else in the world.” — Jacqueline Woodson

Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.

– Ted Kooser, “Year’s End”

“I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.”

- Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

Enjoy the lunar eclipse tonight as the Solstice begins, if you are fortunate to have clear skies. We’ll have clouds and rain here, so I’ll miss seeing it tonight.

How I want to help people feel

November 22nd, 2010

Yes. This is how I would  like people to feel around me…

Sometimes you meet somebody who just exudes contentment and you feel happy and safe with them, as if all is okay in the world and you lack nothing. Everything is easy and you are fully accepted as you are, no matter who or what you are. These people make us feel whole because they are whole.

via THE JOY OF SIMPLICITY | Annastao Blog.

The Dance of Awareness

October 4th, 2010

Awareness in life is not hoping you learn to dance — it is recognizing that you already are dancing. Life is the dancer, you are the dance.

2004:

It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.”Tao of Leadership

When I first started blogging about the Tao back in 2004, I was at the beginning of developing my full sense of awareness. But of course developing awareness isn’t something you can ever really finish; it is always a continuing process. Some moments allow us to be more present and aware than others, some people in our lives allow us to be more present with them than do others. This summer I had the amazing experience of being with a friend where we were both totally and completely aware with each other over several days, and it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I can still find it difficult to be around those who lack awareness, as I said when I posted this in 2004. I am pretty forgiving most of the time, though, and see it as a way to practice loving kindness towards those who are less aware. I often take the bodhisatva path of trying to wake others up, and walk with them for a while, but I usually revert to Tao eventually and am content to simply walk my own path.

2005:

Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilities of the Now –- and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

I blogged a great deal about Tao in 2005, including most of Deng Ming Dao’s wonderful 365 Tao, which I sometimes give to friends who are in conflict. I have a good friend who is reading this right now, and I think it is beginning to help her. I credit this book with helping me the most with my own personal inner changes. If you want to see my real changes, it is in the contrast between the posts from that book and the political articles I was posting. In that year, I felt all the anger I had felt over our country’s situation shift into taking action to do something to change things. I worked a lot on political issues, but lost the anger I had felt and let it shift into movement. I began to understand that Tao is not only about acceptance of what is, but using the power of Tao to help create new or different situations. We are not helpless victims, we are the creators of our own world.

2006:

A person with true self-acceptance is “a person with full awareness of self in body, mind and spirit. This person’s center of consciousness (Hsing – “Heart Flower”) is in full bloom, ready to receive power from above, openly relating to and being reflected by others.”

It may seem clever to know and accept others
Yet accepting oneself is the way to Wisdom.
It may feel powerful to overcome others
Yet disciplining oneself is true Strength.
It may be noble to honor others
Yet respecting oneself is deep self-esteem.

Tao Mentoring

It has taken me a long time to fully learn to accept myself as I am. And it is a process I’ve repeated many times over. Each time I come to believe I finally accept myself, I find something I still want to improve. Meeting this balance between accepting myself as I am and knowing that I have even more room to grow is always interesting. It means not being complacent with where I am at, but always knowing there is more to know, more to see and feel and do, and that is ok.

But I think the key is really respect. Self-respect is not simply about accepting who you are right at this moment, but also respecting yourself enough to continually challenge yourself. Not allowing yourself to become complacent, thinking you are already the best you can be, but knowing there is more you can do and always being ready to learn and grow and change, truly opening yourself to the possibilities of life that are all around you.

This was one of my favorite posts, and one I return to often. I truly believe the key to being able to help others lies in acceptance of ourselves. In 2006, I developed the ability to really create change through simply being myself. I also blogged a lot about art journaling, and using art as a means to learn about yourself and perhaps visually see the inner processes that are usually hidden within us. It was a very helpful time for me, opening me up to new experiences and ideas and a great community of art bloggers.

2007:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of the eye from being fully awake.” — Pema Chodron, Start From Where You Are

In 2007, I blogged about yoga, including Rolf Gates’ wonderful “Meditations from the Mat”, and Buddhism, including much of the wonderful Pema Chodron . I spent a lot of time exploring different paths, but still found Tao to be the one that I kept returning to (well, return is the way of the Tao…) I did a lot of traveling and exploring, worked a great deal on politics, and really felt that our political community was moving towards creating change.

2009:

How much of the day are you aware -– just basically aware of what life is presenting -– rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you’re doing, almost as if you didn’t exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?” — At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos Ezra Bayda

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

For me, spiritual growth has come in strange ways and from strange places, and I think that is how authentic spiritual growth progresses, from within, as we turn through the limits of our own being and try to become more. We find ourselves turning again and again within the limited space of ourselves, and finally realize that there is an enormous amount of space outside of ourselves. We then create mobius strips and Klein bottles, trying to bring this outside space within ourselves, an impossible task at first. We see the beautiful poetry of Rumi as he struggles with spirituality, the magnificent stories and tales of mythology, religion, and literature, all trying to move in these same paths.

And then one day, a small hummingbird sits in front of your nose, flapping its wings, and looks at you curiously, or you gaze into a flower and finally really see it, or someone says something that catches your ear and your mind at just the right moment, or a quiet meditation brings you to the place within yourself that just knows, simply knows, and you smile. You get it. You get that Mona Lisa smile on your face and just — become yourself.

And it happens over and over. We find ourselves, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves again, at another place on the spiral. The helixes divide, and come back together. And life goes on.

2009 for me was about realizing “there is nothing to achieve” — we are already within ourselves everything we want to be or could hope to be. Everything else is just ego. It’s the point where I really became comfortable in my own skin, even as I watch that skin age.

And then — my wonderful friend came along and exploded my world again with this question:

“How open to change are you?”

My boat strikes something deep.
At first, sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
-– Rumi

2010:

Dogen reminds us that to raise the mind of compassionate awakening is none other than the whole of daily activity with no concern for one’s self, no thought of outcome, no sense of self-gratification. It means that whatever is, is the best that there is at this moment. Just this, wholly this, only this.

Engaging in the Way, in the life of continuous practice, means that we are constantly awakening with each new moment. Awakening is not a single event in time. Rather it is a continuous event through time. Basho wrote: Let me be called a traveler. He did not mention any destination. Just a traveler.”
- Joan Halifax via Whiskey River

“Being present in the motion, moment after moment, provides that secret chamber of awareness and gives the writer the chance to notice what is passing by before it is gone.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

So you may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Well, much of my work has moved elsewhere on the Internet — into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — but much of me is now just off living my life, living in awareness, being where I am and with who I am with and doing whatever I am doing, but always Being. I made a vision board a year or so ago with the words “Go. Do. Be” on it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I keep growing, moving, changing, becoming, being. Others may notice, or not, it doesn’t matter. I may change the world, or those around me, or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, for all of us, is Awareness and Being.

That’s all there is, really. The rest is ego. Life dances. You are the dance, not the dancer.

Gratitude

September 7th, 2010


Danielle Anjou, Gratitude

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -– Melody Beattie

“Feel as grateful to existence as possible — for small things, not only for great things… just for sheer breathing. We don’t have any claim on existence, so whatsoever is given is a gift.

Grow more and more in gratitude and thankfulness; let it become your very style. Be grateful to everybody. If one understands gratitude then one is grateful for things that have been done positively. And one even feels grateful for things which could have been done negatively. You feel grateful that somebody helped you; this is just the beginning. Then you start feeling grateful that somebody has not harmed you — he could have; it was so kind of him not to.

Once you understand the feeling of gratitude and allow it to sink deeply within you, you will start feeling grateful for everything. And the more grateful you are, the less complaining, grumbling. Once complaining disappears, misery disappears. It exists with complaints. It is hooked with complaints and with the complaining mind. Misery is impossible with gratefulness. So that is one of the most important secrets to learn.”

Everyday Osho — 365 Daily meditations for the here and now by Osho

Level 2 Gratitude says, “How wonderful it is to exist!” Circumstances are irrelevant because this form of gratitude is a choice that needs no justification. It is a sense of utter fascination with the very notion of existence.

You become grateful for the adventure that is life, including all of its twists and turns. This form of gratitude is synonymous with unconditional love because there is no attachment to circumstances or outcomes. Consequently, there is no fear of loss or change.

Level 2 Gratitude is like having a constant echo in the back of your consciousness saying, “Wow!” Everything else is experienced on top of that Wow. Gratitude becomes the canvas upon which your life is painted… .When your feelings of gratitude are conditional upon temporary circumstances like your stuff, your job, and your relationships, your base identity doesn’t change. But when you root your gratitude in something permanent, it becomes a permanent part of you. Instead of saying, “I am grateful for…” you just say, “I am grateful.”

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “Thank You,” that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — G. K. Chesterton

“It was the love of love,
the love that swallows up all else,
a grateful love,
a love of nature, of people,
of animals,
a love engendering
gentleness and goodness
that moved me
and that I saw in you.”

– William Carlos Williams

“Gratitude is a twofold love / love coming to visit us, and love running out to greet a welcome guest.” — Henry Van Dyke

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” — Denis Waitley

“Let’s choose today to quench our thirst for the ”good life” we think others lead by acknowledging the good that already exists in our lives. We can then offer the universe the gift of our grateful hearts.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” — Melody Beattie

I posted this in January this year, but am feeling the need to post it again today. For a while I kept a gratitude journal, but I use it rarely these days. Perhaps I need to start doing that again, to remind myself of how much I have to be grateful for. Last night we had a party for our friends, which we hadn’t done in some time, and I realized how disconnected from them I had become, in spite of the facebook and twitter connections. Our electronic connections are so shallow sometimes compared to the reality of our face to face communications. And it is sad how rarely we let others know how very much we appreciate them.

So much of our society is about that search for more, the higher highs, the more powerful position, the ever-increasing salary, more stuff, bigger houses, bigger cars. We let those things get in the way of simply enjoying ourselves and each other.

When are we ever just thankful for what we have? Don’t we know eventually we will lose all the things, all the stuff, our lives themselves?

Be grateful for what you have now, and more will come to you. That is the nature of the universe. Be unhappy, be disrespectful, be harsh to others, and you will have less. Maybe not less stuff, but less in your heart, in your spirit. You have to be grateful for what you have in order to keep it, and in order to really deserve more. Tao trusts only those who prove themselves to be worthy of being its caretakers.

Hold the jewel in your heart.

Source (updated from Feb 2005)

February 27th, 2010

source.jpg

(I blogged this three years ago, but Rambling Taoist is posting on this book today, so thought I would repost this here).

Wellspring of energy
Rises in the body’s core
Tap it and be sustained.
Channel it, and it will speak.

The source of all power is within yourself. Although external circumstances may occasionally hamper you, true movement comes solely from within yourself. The source is latent in everyone, but anyone can learn to tap it. When this happens, power rises like a shimmering well through the center of your body.

Physically, it will sustain and nourish you. But it can do many other things as well. It can give you gifts ranging from unusual knowledge to simple tranquility. It all depends on how you choose to direct your energies.

We cannot say that a person will become enlightened solely by virtue of having tapped this source of power; energy is neutral. It requires experience, wisdom, and education to direct it. You may gain power from your meditations, but it is possible for two people with the same valid attainment to use it in two different ways, even to the extremes of good and evil. Finding the source of spiritual power is a great joy; deciding how to direct it is the greatest of responsibilities.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I wrote this in 2005:

I don’t really have a lot to say about spiritual power today. It is a wonderful feeling when you feel it, and when that energy is flowing within you things seem to become effortless. I can’t keep mine flowing consistently but then i don’t tend to spend a lot of time in meditation. My energy source is definitely lying coiled and resting today. Perhaps I’ll push myself along to yoga later and get the juices flowing again… yawn. First maybe a dip in the spa and a long hot shower to get moving…

Five years later, a lot has changed for me. I would say that I flow very well from within my source, my life is fairly effortless these days. But I am beginning to feel the power rising; I do not yet know where and how it will be channeled. I’ve been sustained for a long time now and haven’t felt the need to do much, other than my political efforts, which I’m told have been very powerful at inspiring others, and my pet therapy work, which I hear the same about. I don’t actively try to inspire or create action these days; I mostly move with the Tao and allow myself to be a channel for whatever creative force wants to flow through me. This is hard to explain to people sometimes, but I don’t actually try to force my own will so much as I go along with whatever seems to need to be done at the moment. It is rare that I will tell people no if they ask something of me.

So I don’t always know exactly where I am headed, or even what the day will bring. I prefer not to bring my expectations to the day anymore, but rahter to let myself move along with whatever the day may bring. I’m not always able to do this, of course, and do get out of sorts, but I don’t expect everything to just flow to me either. It’s not about the law of attraction, it’s about the law of following for me. I don’t so much attract what I want — I turn it around to want what is attracted to me. It’s a different attitude, but it leads to a great deal of happiness and fulfillment.

The Way of Elegance

February 4th, 2010

“Something is elegant if it is two things at once: unusually simple and surprisingly powerful. One without the other leaves you short of elegant. And sometimes the “unusual simplicity” isn’t about what’s there, it’s about what isn’t. At first glance, elegant things seem to be missing something… Elegant ideas—products, services, performances, strategies, whatever—all have some degree of these four elements: symmetry, seduction, subtraction, and sustainability. ” — Matthew E. May

“For me, elegance is not to pass unnoticed but to get to the very soul of what one is.” — Christian Lacroix

“Be patient, do nothing, cease striving. We find this advice disheartening and therefore unfeasible because we forget it is our own inflexible activity that is structuring the reality. We think that if we do not hustle, nothing will happen and we will pine away. But the reality is probably in motion and after a while we might take part in that motion. But one can’t know.” — Paul Goodman, “Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time” via Whiskey River

“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.” — Coco Chanel

“Desires are many, needs are few. Needs can be fulfilled; desires, never. A desire is a need gone crazy. It is impossible to fulfill it. The more you try to fulfill it, the more it goes on asking, asking, asking….Once you start learning how to choose the peaceful, a small room is enough; a small quantity of food is enough; a few clothes are enough; one lover, a very ordinary man, can be enough of a lover.” — Osho, “Everyday Osho”

“Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common – this is my symphony.” — William Channing

What if deep poetry flowed through your day-to-day life? What if writing that poetry was a path to enlightenment? Basho, the grandfather of haiku poetry, named this path, “the Way of Elegance” because it connects you to grace and fills your life with subtle beauty….

One of the key concepts on the way of elegance is “furyu.” Basho discovered in his life of reading and thinking and wandering and teaching and writing that all of these things contributed to Furyu which literally means “in the way of the wind and stream”. It is putting yourself in the traffic, launching yourself into the action, not necessarily as a player, but deliberately, as the eyes and ears and taste buds and sense of smell. Furyu is a powerful tool that shows you what you like, and also what you love.

When a person has followed the Way of Elegance for a while she reaches a state where all she wants is to attend to quality moments with focused acceptance. Such a stance is hard to amintain; her family and friends will push her to distraction, pressure her to be normal. If you see her in this situation, enter her sabi, show her your wabi. Encourage her to follow furyu with you.” — Richard R. Powell, “Wabi Sabi for Writers”

“Furyu” is composed of two characters meaning, “wind” and “flowing.” Like the moving wind, it can be sensed but not seen. It is both tangible and intangible in its suggested elegance. And like the wind, furyu points to a wordless ephemeral beauty that can only be experienced in the moment, for in the next instant it will dissolve like the morning mist.

“The simplicity of wabi-sabi is best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. (Things that are wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.) Usually this implies a limited palette of materials. It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn’t mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole.” — Leonard Koren, “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers”

As a human being, I can only say that the future is yet to be made. Let us go forth and make it, but let us make it as beautifully as we can. The degree of elegance is determined by our will and the perfection of our own personalities. — Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Quitting the Paint Factory by Mark Slouka

January 17th, 2010

It is this willingness to hand over our lives that fascinates and appalls me. There’s such a lovely perversity to it; it’s so wonderfully counterintuitive, so very Christian: You must empty your pockets, turn them inside out, and spill out your wife and your son, the pets you hardly knew, and the days you sim­ply missed altogether watching the sunlight fade on the bricks across the way. You must hand over the rainy afternoons, the light on the grass, the moments of play and of simply being. You must give it up, all of it, and by your example teach your children to do the same, and then – because even this is not enough – you must train yourself to believe that this outsourcing of your life is both natural and good. But even so, your soul will not be saved.

The young, for a time, know better. They balk at the harness. They do not go easy. For a time they are able to see the utter sadness of subordinating all that matters to all that doesn’t. Eventually, of course, sitting in their cubi­cle lined with New Yorker cartoons, selling whatever it is they’ve been asked to sell, most come to see the advantage of enthusiasm. They join the choir and are duly forgiven for their illusions. It’s a rite of passage we are all familiar with. The generations before us clear the path; Augustine stands to the left, Freud to the right. We are born into death, and die into life, they mur­mur; civilization will have its discontents. The sign in front of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Work confirms it. And we believe.

All of which leaves only the task of explaining away those few miscreants who out of some inner weakness or perversity either refuse to convert or who go along and then, in their thirty-sixth year in the choir, say, abruptly abandon the faith. Those in the first category are relatively easy to contend with; they are simply losers. Those in the second are a bit more difficult; their apostasy requires something more… dramatic. They are considered mad.

via Quitting the Paint Factory by Mark Slouka « adamantine.

The Joy of Service

September 24th, 2009

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy…my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” — George Bernard Shaw (via Whiskey River)

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” — Ben Sweetland

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” — Rabindranath Tagore

“Consciously or unconsciously, everyone of us does render some service or another. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and it will make not only for our own happiness, but that of the world at large.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness” — Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

“Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness — great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy.” — Jim Rohn

“The Master of Life’s been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where other saw oblivion. He Has given new purpose to live for, new services to render and old wounds to heal.

Life and love go on, let the music play.” — Johnny Cash

Breakthrough (repost)

September 1st, 2009


Autumn Wind in Gemstone Trees, Tang Dynasty, China

In late summer, heaven’s breath is damply hot.
It smothers the earth with dullness.
Suddenly, thick clouds gather:
A wave of polar air passes like a frigid rake.
Acorns fall like bullets,
And a new wind breaks through.

When the air is hot and humid, there is a feeling of dullness and stagnation. Everyone is oppressed by lassitude. As the seasons begin changing, fresh air comes from the arctic. Clouds that have been building up begin to dispense rain, and damp air is exchanged for fresh, cool breezes. At night, the heavens are changing so quickly that lightening flashes from colliding clouds, and thunder heralds the revolving of the skies.

The same is true of human life. If the heavens cannot endure stagnation for long, how can stagnation last with us? If we find ourselves blocked and frustrated in life, we must look for the inevitable outlet. Nothing is permanent, so how can our obstacles last? We need to look for the first opportunity to set things moving again.

On the other hand, sometimes stagnation comes from our own laziness or incompetence. In this case, then it is we who must show initiative and stimulate a breakthrough in dull circumstances. As soon as we see a chance, we must act. Unless we engage ourselves and events fully, we cannot expect to act sufficiently.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“What you really want for yourself is always trying to break through, just as a cooling breeze flows through an open window on a hot day. Your part is to open the windows of your mind.” — Vernon Howard

“Oh, my God, this amazing cool breeze is coming through my window and the sun is shining. I’m happy.” — Liv Tyler

“O sweet September, the first breezes bring the dry leaf’s rustle and the squirrel’s laughter, the cool fresh air whence health and vigor spring and promise of exceeding joy hereafter.” — George Arnold

“We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things… but there are times when we stop. We sit sill. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” — James Carroll

“I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” — Nicholas Sparks

I’ve been fighting my obstacles and stagnation for a while now, waiting for this to happen and that to happen, to have time, I tell myself. For what, I don’t really know. But, I have time, I just don’t have motivation. I need to get back to my art, back to my reading projects and writing. Yes, I can open the windows now and feel the cool breezes of autumn beginning to blow, feel how refreshingly cool and crisp the air is becoming. And it is energizing, to some extent. I still seem stuck in my laziness, though, my tiredness. The mundane tasks of life get done, but not much else, nothing really grand or wonderful. But then, I have to come back to the Zen saying:

“Before enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.
After enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.”

Perhaps, like children, we simply need to realize the grand and wonderful in everyday things – the flowers, the animals, the poetry of life, our daydreams, the sunsets and breezes. Is there really anything so much more wonderful than that?

This is a poem I write a few years ago, inspired by my own children:

Choices

There isn’t black or white
Anymore today,
I suddenly woke up
To a thousand shades of gray.
I’ve lost the either/or,
And now forever more
I will know there is more
I have yet to explore.

I looked into your eyes
And I saw the past
And then I realized
It goes much too fast.
You’re not a child now
I’ll turn around and how
You’ll have grown
And have flown
And I’ll never have known.

I’ve got to find a way
To make this moment stay!
I’ve got to find the time
To really make it mine.
I look behind me and it’s gone
I’ve got to carry on
And find the path
That takes me back…

It’s there in your eyes
It’s such a surprise
To see the world again
As if it were new!
The joy that you show to me
Now you have set me free
And I see that at last
I can reach to the past.

And so I carry on
With the chores today,
But somehow now I know
There is more to say.
I’ll find my voice again
I’ll have a choice again
You have shown my how
I know even now.

That life is what you make it -
The chance is there so take it!
And when you turn around,
Then at last you’ve found
There’s an open door
Into nevermore …
But what you’ve done here
Will not disappear.

Galvanized

June 15th, 2009

I learned these lessons when I lost my dad 15 years ago June 20th, again when I lost my mom 5 years ago. I actually found this on the Internet a couple years ago around this time of year, but never cross posted it then, since the blogger’s feelings then still seemed too raw to invade their private space, or as private as anything on the Internet ever is. They are no longer blogging, and that blog was deleted, but the words still speak to me.

I always get sad around this time of year, I always forget why and can’t figure it out, and then after a few days, it hits me. It’s that time of year again, when I faced the first major real loss of my life. And then, I always cry.


Galvanized

It’s an ignorant bliss if you’ve never yet lost someone close before. It’s not until a few weeks after that the reality soaks in. You think that you’re fine while the people visit and at the funeral, and then *cold slap* it’s not his booming voice saying, “hey!,” anxious energy, or pat on the back when they arrive through their front door or not that face that rounds the corner as expected. And all of the words that you ever read before about death and loss seem somehow not so cliche, less like rhetoric than before.

If you have experienced it before, you are forever after able to stand apart and feel almost removed from the situation, however compassionately, as you witness others being initiated as though it is a cruel hazing to make them hug and grieve their way up the line into this morose membership of “We Who Now ‘Get What Life is Really About’ Club.” Death reminds us that we are each a soul that comes in alone and departs the same. So there is a purpose to death, and that is to more fully love life.

Death of someone close opens one’s eyes. And it divides your life into two parts — that carefree and somewhat self-absorbed existence you knew before loss, and the now-imperfect one you are left with to more fully appreciate and parse through for little gems afterward, as though it is an endless beach from which you will forever be collecting special shells — you realize both mortality and immortality at the same time — what you lovingly place in your pocket while here (your earthly life), and what you can take in your heart when you transition to eternity. This is what my kids have learned from losing their Grandpa, my husband from losing his father.

I hurt for them and hate that they must now join the “club.” But I know Grandpa will leave them with this one last — and his best — lesson: to never take a day of your life for granted because you never know which will be your last day.

Success

May 16th, 2009

It occurred to me as I read this today that I have actually done all these things… how strange…
although I would also add the affection of dogs, cats and other small creatures into the mix…

“To have laughed often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

via Cabinet of Wonders (love this post today, go read, please!)

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
– Albert Einstein

“There is only one success –to be able to spend your life in your own way.”
– Christopher Morley

“You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them.”
– Albert Camus

“What is success? It is a toy balloon among children armed with pins.” — Gene Fowler

“I dread success. To have succeeded is to have finished one’s business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in courtship. I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Success has made failures of many men.” — Cindy Adams

“The moral flabbiness born of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid interpretation put on the word success – is our national disease.” — William James

“How can they say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?” — Logan Smith

Excess baggage

May 11th, 2009

Standing on tiptoe, one is unsteady.
Taking long steps, one quickly tires.
Showing off, one shows un-enlightenment.
Displaying self-righteousness, one reveals vanity.
Praising the self, one earns no respect.
Exaggerating achievements, one cannot long endure.
Followers of the Way consider these
Extra food, unnecessary baggage.
They bring no happiness.
Therefore, followers of the Way
avoid them.

– Tao Te Ching, 24

If you aren’t going to do it, forget it

All those things you are intending to do, but have never got around to doing, another common source of extra ‘weight’. If you are honest with yourself, you know that you aren’t going to turn them into action. If you were, you would have done it by now.

I mean those expectations you formed once, long ago, and still carry about with you. Those plans you made, but never acted on. Those achievements you boasted you would deliver, but which proved more difficult—and far less interesting—the longer you lived with them.

I’m often amazed at how many of the so-called failures people feel bad about were never more than pipe-dreams. How often the gaps that depress them are only there because they made a statement of what they would do and could never bring themselves to admit it was a crazy idea, best set aside.

Life will bring you more than enough genuine failures and problems. Don’t add more by clinging to silly promises, just to avoid the embarrassment of admitting to a mistake.

Slow Leadership

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else – we are the busiest people in the world.”
- Eric Hoffer

via Whiskey River

Getting ready for a trip to Paris soon, and trying to figure out how to pack and carry the things I want to bring. Spent yesterday finding a bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag but still provides enough protection for the camera, selecting some books for the plane ride, etc. But I’m, already starting to feel the pangs of excess baggage. I like to travel lightly and unencumbered, and almost always feel like I have way too much stuff, way too much extra weight just lugging myself around. I’m constantly trying to learn to live more simply, shed stuff, but it always seems to pile up again.

It’s sometimes hard to live in a culture of so much excess. Even those of us who have very little tend to hang on to everything, keeping old junk we may never use again. And then there are days I find myself missing something I had as a kid, or coming across things that I hadn’t used for a while and loving them all over again. It makes it hard to part with things, thinking we might have uses for them again. Or thinking if we got rid of it we would just have to replace it later on. And even within ourselves, it is so hard to shed non-productive thoughts, those old patterns of who we thought we might be, what we could have done, those relationships that failed that we need to let go of, but are unable to relinquish.

And as I think about what to get rid of, perhaps let go of, I notice hubby has decided to reorg the bookshelves and mess with my section of books, and it angers me that he put some of mine away in storage without telling me. Even there, even things I hadn’t read in ages, and yet it touches my frustrations. Ah, more to let go of.

Part-time crusader

April 21st, 2009

“Sentiment without action…is the ruin of the soul” — Edward Abbey

“Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies — You will outlive the bastards.” — Edward Abbey

“Nature is self-organizing and resilient but, like any problem solver, needs options — lots and lots of players, from microbes to whales. The more potential options are available, the more likely new relationships can emerge to succeed or men those that have been disrupted and broken, and the more resilient a stressed ecosystem is likely to be.”

“Aldo Leopold…observed that the key to healing broken habitats was to save as many of the parts as possible. The processes that create and shape diversity — fires and floods, for example — are also important. An ecosystem that is shaped by occasional fires must be big enough to replace species that are lost to fires where they occur, or its diversity is vulnerable and temporary, perched on the edge of inevitable decline.” –Chip Ward, “Hope’s Horizon”

All (repost from 2004)

February 18th, 2009

Jin. All, exhausted, completely, entirely, end. At the bottom of the symbol for all is an elevated dish or vessel. Above it, a hand is shown with a lid to the vessel. Nothing more is to be put in, so the task is complete and at an end.

Always complete your actions.

When you do something, don’t hold back. Shoot it all, go for it all. Don’t wait for “a better time,” because the better times are built on what you do today. Don’t be selfish with your skills, because the skills of tomorrow are built upon the performances of today.

It’s so tempting to say, “I’ll keep it for myself and build it up to something really big later.” Only later never comes. By waiting too long, the end catches up with you. You willl then be covered like the lid in Jin, ans you will never have had a chance to act.

To be with Tao is to live a creative life. To live a creative life always means that you express who you are. And expression is never helped by suppression. Expression always benefits from coming out. Then more inspiration will come from that source.

When you act, act completely. Follow through. Do everything that has to be done. Be like the fire that burns completely clean: only from that pure stage can you then take the next step.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

One of the things that bothers me the most about my husband is he rarely finishes things. He will do about 90% of the task, then leave the rest. Tihs is far better than when I used to call him “Mr. 80 percent” though. (I was a meaner person then). A lot of the time it is not finishing up or cleaning up or putting tools away. The reason it bothers me is because it is one of the things that bothers me most in myself, of course. I remember to finish fully when I’m aware of it, but when I’m tired or not feeling well I tend to just leave things undone.

My dad always talked about what he would do when he retired — build a workshop and do woodworking and such. Except he never got to retire, he died of cancer before ever getting the chance. My mom used to talk about selling the house and living in a small apartment, maybe in Hawaii, but never did. She passed away in the same house, leaving me all the mess of the house and her papers and finances to clean up, and matters unsettled for my disabled sister and nephew. It’s been a year now and I’m still dealing with this mess of her estate. I’ve pretty much vowed not to do this to my own children.

I think it is hard for people to fully finish things or give their all to a task because they figure there will always be time to do things later. “Never enough time to do it right, always time to do it later” seems to be our motto. No wonder we admire fine craftsmanship so much — as long as others do the hard work.

I see this a lot right now in our disposable culture — people get something cheap because if it doesn’t work or breaks, they can always get another one. There isn’t the appreciation of fine work anymore. I recently spent my time to repaint several plastic chairs (yes, you can get paint for plastic) rather than buy new ones, because I wanted a certain color and I wanted to save the faded, scratched chairs. It would have been easy to just buy new chairs, but they wouldn’t have been the color I wanted and it would have been wasteful.

We value stuff over time, then complain because we spend all our time working to get cheap stuff we don’t even appreciate or enjoy. It seems crazy, but that is what Americans value. And then don’t understand when someone doesn’t want to buy into this culture, doesn’t want the bigger house or fancier car, but perhaps a smaller, more personal house and older car. People admire my garden, but don’t want to take the time to create one of their own. Little do they know it hardly takes any time at all, because they simply don’t want to find out. They don’t want to invest in learning what plants work well in their area and then plant those that take little maintenance, They would rather get what looks pretty now, and then complain about maintaining it later.

I spend a lot of time to do the things I do. It’s just that I look at that time as an investment, to make time for myself later to do other things. Not when I retire, or when I’m older, but when I want to do something else. Or, as W. S. Gilbert said, and the quote on my board here reminds me, “I do nothing in particular, but I do it very well!”

Serenity

February 8th, 2009

dsc02142

The highest motive is to be like water.
Water is essential to all life,
yet it does not demand a fee
or proclaim its importance.
Rather, it flows humbly to the lowest level,
and in so doing it is much like Tao.

In the home the truly wise love the humble earth,
the foundation on which the home is built.
In the heart they love what is genuine.
In friendship they are compassionate.
In words they are sincere.
In government they foster peace and goodwill.
In business they work with quiet efficiency.

Serenity is the goal of Tao.
Through it nothing is lost.

– Tao Te Ching, 8

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”
– Thomas S. Szasz

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”
– Lindley Karstens

“Appreciation, gratitude, affection-these are the qualities Parisians bestow on their parks. Beauty, serenity, tranquillity, majesty-these are the rewards they reap in return.” — Landt Dennis

“I had found a kind of serenity, a new maturity… I didn’t feel better or stronger than anyone else but it seemed no longer important whether everyone loved me or not–more important now was for me to love them. Feeling that way turns your whole life around; living becomes the act of giving.”
– Beverly Sills

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”
– Kahlil Gibran

“When we sip tea, we are on our way to serenity.”
– Alexandra Stoddard

“Now you understand the Oriental passion for tea,” said Japhy. “Remember that book I told you about the first sip is joy, the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy.”
– Jack Kerouac

“I wouldn’t know how to handle serenity if somebody handed it to me on a plate.”– Dusty Springfield

“Curiosity … endows the people who have it with a generosity in argument and a serenity in their own mode of life which springs from their cheerful willingness to let life take the form it will.”– Alistair Cooke

“Here, with whitened hair, desires failing, strength ebbing out of him, with the sun gone down and with only the serenity and the calm warning of the evening star left to him, he drank to Life, to all it had been, to what it was, to what it would be.” — Sean O’Casey

“Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed voice, it is not the voice of God. Descend still deeper into yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear, undivided voice, a voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light, and serenity.”
– Henri Frederic Amiel

“The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity.” — Andre Gide

Simplicity (repost)

January 30th, 2009


Simple Pleasures, Albert Fennel

“Be aware of Tao.”
Isn’t that simple?
No — let’s reduce more :
“Be Tao.”

Why go through all this rigmarole? Why endlessly examine scriptures and debate obscure actions of long-dead saints and equally dead words? We need to affirm experience over words, individuality over dogma.

After all this study of Tao, there should only be this simple conclusion :

There is only us and Tao.

No, more simple still is to be Tao itself. Then everything that is Tao is us.

Those who follow Tao reduce everything in complexity until they reach the final irreducible conclusion : You are Tao. When you can be that without any contradictions, then you have truly achieved sublime simplicity.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Simplicity in conduct, in beliefs, and in environment brings an individual very close to the truth of reality. Individuals who practice simplicity cannot be used because they already have everything they need; they cannot be lied to because a lie merely reveals to them another aspect of reality. An attraction to simplicity is essentially an attraction to freedom – the highest expression of personal power. We are taught to think of freedom as something one has, but it is really the absence of things that brings freedom to the individual and meaning into life. To let go of things – unnecessary desires, superfluous possessions – is to have them. Lao Tzu believed that an individual life contains the whole universe, but when individuals develop fixations about certain parts of life they become narrow and shallow and uncentered. Fixations and desires create a crisis within the mind. As individuals let go of desires, feelings of freedom, security, independence, and power increase accordingly.”

– R.L. Wing, The Tao of Power

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

“Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.”
– Winston Churchill

“Simplicity is the glory of expression”
– Walt Whitman

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
– Charles Dudley Warner

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

“From native simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity.” — Albert Schweitzer

“Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter. ” — D.H. Mondfleur

“Live simply that others might simply live.” — Elizabeth Seaton

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” –Lin Yutang

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris

“How many things are there which I do not want.” — Socrates

America is a difficult country for anyone trying to simplify their life. We complicate things endlessly and are relentlessly pushed to be more, do more, have more. Our lives become complex webs of work, relationships, and always, more stuff than we can handle.

Be Tao. It seems very simple, to realize one is simply a natural being that is a part of everything else. But our relationship to the real, natural world is so often cut off, our understanding of ourselves is cut off as well. Connecting the two things as one is not an easy or simple task.

Can we achieve the simplicity of knowing we are Tao? Sure. And then we’ll forget, and need to remind ourselves again. The less often we need reminding, the simpler and more fulfilling our lives will become.

A Sacred Space

January 27th, 2009

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Jessie’s post on “sacred” today reminded me of this posting from 2007, and how I need to restore the sacred space in my life:

Sarah Susanka – A Sacred Space: Home – Feature Article on Sacred Space, Architecture and Home

Joseph Campbell wrote of the need for such a place. He said, “You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what is in the morning paper. A place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. At first you may think nothing’s happening. But if you have a sacred space and take advantage of it and use it everyday, something will happen”. Such a place does not need to be large. It can be an alcove off a bedroom, an unused corner of the basement, or an attic, as in my own home. Take time to make it beautiful, make it an expression of who you are, whether simple and unadorned, or filled with treasures collected over a lifetime. And make it a pattern of your daily routine to spend time there each day, in meditation, in contemplation, or in creative exploration. We are amazing creatures, every one of us, but we forget so easily, when we don’t take the time to listen to our inner being.

Other posts centering on the word sacred here:

Sanctity

Trickster

Dreaming freely

January 25th, 2009

I dreamed I was getting my high school diploma again — including all kinds of weird symbology in the dream — but the ending was the best. Diploma in hand, knowing everything I know now, strolling into the late afternoon dappled sunshine streaming on me with all my knowledge and with my youth and with no obligations at all — it was a feeling of complete and total freedom. I had a few more dreams after that — it seems I was an amazing photographer who could show people visions with my pictures, and there was also a spider who laid golden and silver eggs, and lots more cool things.

And then of course I woke up to the house and the husband opening the door to let the cat in and walking in on me and shattering my peaceful feeling of happiness. Sigh.

I need to remember that freedom to just be myself when I’m awake, too.